It was my comeback year.
I had done my first Challenge in 1995.
The CLASS of 1995 is an interesting year for starters to the Challenge.
More later….But it did include Sloman & Hopkins and a few others……
I was going Solo I had done nothing since 1995 because in 1995 we had this!
|Although he is even bigger now|
Although, back then he looked more like this.
And in 1997 this!
who did NOT even exist then.
But did look like this
And I loved them so much I couldn’t bear to be away for that long.
Not that I don’t love them that much even now, it’s just that now they understand when I am away, and they have their own lives and agenda’s.
So, it was after MUCH planning and eager anticipation, that I set off from Mallaig.
Mallaig will be my start this year on my 9th, (Knee willing), and I am hoping for better luck.. Read on …..
I didn’t take a lot of photos back then.
To be honest, the day was wet and miserable.
I had travelled up on the Thu via Glasgow, and the train.
I met up with John Jocys, who was on his first Challenge, and I hope to think that to this day, we are still friends, having survived several Challenge’s separately and together in the interim period.
I had stayed at Sheena’s backpacking hostel, which not luxurious, but was excellent value for money and still is.
We had a beer or two, and fish and chips.
There was some good music going on that night in the pub, and it was a good crack. A noise that will occur again.
Eventually it was time to go an brave the nasal renditions in the bunkhouse.
I had taken music. It blanked out the worst of it.
Then it was morning.
I went and signed out and headed down for the ferry.
There was the usual crowd, and it was raining.
I got on the ferry, chatting away and we headed across the water to Inverey.
Now, I was just a YOOF by comparison back then, and unknown at the time was the pub at Inverey.
I headed off right from the ferry.
This year we may venture in.
Then, all I will have to do is get Mr Sloman out before dusk and up glen Barrisdale.
On this occasion I was intending to head over to Sourlies, and camp somewhere between the bothy and Glen Dessary.
Maybe because it was raining a lot of the time.
I do remember though, that despite the rain it was a rather fine walk.
|A bit misty and overcast|
I was making good time despite the weather.
Eventually after quite a bit of walking I came over the top to look down to the old building before crossing over to go round the headland to Sourlies.
Luckily the tide was out, but it was still bloody wet and tufty.
After a steep descent, I crossed the river at the rickety falling down bridge.
It had warning signs all over it.
It still looks like that.
The boards were missing, and getting off the other side was interesting.
Once across, I headed across the tufty ground attempting not to get my boots submerged.
Eventually I got round the end of the headland and headed towards Sourlies bothy.
When I got there, there were some chaps inside, and there was no room.
There were already tents up.
I wanted to get a bit further on and so I headed on.
IF it had been now, I would have put my tent up, and head a social evening.
|A bridge somewhere on route.|
Listen, it was 2004, how on earth am I meant to remember where this was?
As I made my way up from Sourlies, and started to climb, it started to rain.
It was NOT going to stop.
I carried on along the path, that soon turned into a stream.
I was NOT looking forward to putting my tent up.
I carried on past the small lochans, and bit further up.
My intention the next day was to go over the watershed into Kingey and then up to Glen Garry.
Intended stop was Tomdoun.
Eventually after much walking, and now tired and knackered at about 8.00pm, I found a small high-ish bit of tufty grass just past a gate on which to perch my Saunders Tent. Everywhere else was by now under water.
It took a while to get the wee tent up and everything in.
I made up a brew and got my wet stuff off and into some dry gear.
We are talking 2004.
Gear and technology have moved on at a pretty fast pace.
I made brew and had some food and after a while of aged mp3 listening, I went to sleep.
I woke in the middle of the night desperate for a Pee.
It was hosing down outside.
I stretched my hand out.
Something rather nasty touched my fingers.
I recoiled and searched for my head torch.
I was not looking forward to turning it on.
BUT I DID.
I had been invaded by SLUGS
Nasty HUGE black and brown bastards
About 10 of them.
Crawling up my tent and on my gear.
I am NOT a Buddhist, and in a frenzied attack I murdered them all and threw the bodies out.
I went outside and had my pee.
On the way back I stomped a few more of their friends for good measure.
Maybe the following day was revenge, who knows.
I went back to sleep, after a good check and sealing all possible vents.
They are sneaky bastards are Slugs.
And thus it came to pass that it was dawn, and then later, and the rain had stopped for a while, and I broke camp and headed off along the river and up.
It was a very misty day, and the further I climbed, the poorer the visibility in the mist.
I used my compass to get some bearings and check on what little terrain I could see.
, and headed on up and over, eventually starting to descend into Glen Kingey
|Another View Up Kingey as I dropped down from the watershed.|
I had been extra careful on the way down.
Visibility was poor, and the ascent up the river and then over the top was not easy, needing to gain some ground and then get back on track without much to see.
However, by the time I finally got down to the track along the Kingey, the cloud had started to lift, and visibility was improving.
There was even a glimpse of sun.
I was making good time, and enjoying the views.
I was looking around at last at some fine scenery.
And therein lay my one mistake,
That, and NOT knowing about walking poles.
I slid on some very wet muddy stuff.
My foot jammed into a small gap between two rocks and I pitched forwards.
My heavy pack helping me earthwards.
With poles I think I would have just stopped ok.
But no poles meant no chance of stopping before the ground.
Which, may have been ok, had my foot not become trapped in the rock.
I carried on and then hear a not large but an audible CRACK.
Maybe a bit louder CRACK
I bit of pain in my leg at the boot top line.
Maybe a bit of a sprain?
I gingerly put some weight on.
OK, IT HURT!!!!
Words like FUCK sprang to mind
Maybe I could walk it off.
A few more steps said maybe not.
I took off the pack and then sat down and removed the boot and sock.
It didn’t feel too bad.
Maybe if I taped it up.
Luckily I had a LARGE roll of adhesive tape
(something I always carry now, like steri strips after Al’s barbed wire incident).
I used most of it to make a splint from ankle up above the boot line.
It felt a bit better.
hey, it was only about 9 miles or so to Tomdoun.
I put the sock and boot back on.
Tried a few wincing steps, and then put the pack back on.
I took a few paces.
OK, this was NOT going to be easy.
IT WAS HURT
And I was in the middle of nowhere, and far from anywhere were people might be.
I looked at the map and determined that I need to make it about 2 miles up the Glen to where all the tracks crossed.
I stepped slowly and gingerly.
How I could have done with POLES.
It was going to be an almighty slow and painful trek.
Step, step wince, step, step OW …. Step, step wince, step, step OW !
You get the picture?
I took out my phone and turned it on.
Might get a signal?
No signal but it did say SOS calls only.
I dialed the emergency number.
The SOS note went and it said NO SERVICE or some such.
It should have said
“NOPE Mate .. You’re on your own!!”
I put it away, and over the course of the next 2 hours, with a grimace and a lot of swearing and cursing,
(not because of the pain, but because I was mighty PISSED OFF at my own stupidity), I made it along the valley.
Eventually after what seemed like hours, Because it WAS , I saw some people descending the other side of the river.
I found a nice flat bit, and dropped my pack.
Checked phone, but still NO signal.
So I took off my bright yellow thermal top.
Stuck some other stuff on.
Blew my Emergency whistle in the time honoured way, and waved my yellow makeshift flag for all I was worth.
I was not sure if they had seen it, and then they dropped out of view.
It must have been 20 min later when the first head popped up into view and came over to see me.
Eventually all 4 arrived.
I explained my predicament.
They were out for a Sunday walk.
I apologised for ruining their day!
They helped me put up my tent.
Made brew, and gave me a bit of cake, and then with a wave headed off back across the river to eventually try and get help, or get to a phone.
I gave them a pretty good grid reference using my aged GPS.
I cannot remember their names, and I have NOT been able to find out who they were since.
BUT IF IT WAS YOU AND YOU ARE READING THIS.
And with that I sat and waited.
|View as they walked back over the hill|
|View up the valley from my tent|
|Some nearby rocks|
I had not taken any pain killers while walking, because the last thing I wanted was some masking agent lying to me about the pain.
But now, with a cup of tea and cake and sitting by my tent it seemed somehow appropriate.
I took some Ibruprofen and some paracetamol.
AND I WAITED
AND WAITED ……………..
It had been about 14:00 when they left.
It was getting on for 18:30 now, and the mist was forming back up the Glen.
I was thinking I might well be here for the night
AND THEN in the distance like a scene from Apocalypse now, but without the music, I heard the drum, drum drum of the Sea King as it flew up the valley.
In no time it had arrived.
I flare was thrown down to gauge the wind, and then they landed.
The first RAF medic ran over to me.
PRIVATISE IT??? What a bloody stupid idea
He checked me over.
Then said “OK, Sit there and we will pack your stuff away”
“That’s ok, I can help with that” I said
“Just sit there and don’t move please” he said
So I did for a while.
They packed everything away (ok, stuffed it into the rucksack)
Chucked it onto the helicopter, and then said,
“ok we will carry you over”
“I can get over, it’s ok” I says
“NOPE! we will carry you!”
And they did.
I stuck on some ear muffs, because if you have never been inside a chopper before, let me tell you, that they are as noisy as ***K.
And out we flew.
There were some fantastic views as we flew to Fort William.
And on another day without a broken leg, or a completely ruined trip that I had been planning and looking forward to for months I would have appreciated them a lot more.
I sometimes get asked was I scared when it happened and after.
The honest answer was NO.
At no time.
I had stuff with me.
I was prepared, and knew what to do.
It was NOT as it happens a bad break.
What I was though ….. WAS ……………
AL-MIGHTILY FUCKING PISSED OFF
At myself, and at the fact that I would not be doing the TGOC this year.
NOT much of a comeback eh?
Eventually we flew into Fort William, and I was taken into the hospital.
I said goodbye and thank you to the RAF boys , and then the nurses and Dr’s took over.
I chatted with them.
The Dr did a check and then they wheeled me off to X Ray.
I was hoping for a sprain.
I got a BREAK.
Before I went off to be plastered but not using alcohol, the nurse asked me where I was staying.
“I have nowhere yet” I said.
What a star.
By the time I got back, she had sorted me out with a cheap B&B just round the corner, and also arranged a Taxi to take me there.
Bloody excellent service!!
At this time, I also had a visit from the police.
They were very pleasant, but had to go through a huge list of stuff to see if I was correctly prepared for the excursion or not.
Well, I ticked all of the boxes, and a few that they did not have on their list, and was given a gold star (figuratively).
When I think about some of the muppets I see stories about being taken off the hills, I do hope the buggers have to pay the costs.
Sadly we all might have to once the privatised mob take over, because somehow you know that they are not in it to make a loss.
So anyway, I have nice cup of tea, and then the taxi arrives, and I hobble off on my crutches, the taxi chap takes me round the corner, and drops me off at the digs.
“How Much?” I says
“Da na be sa daft” he says
“What time are you off tomora? Gi us a call, and I’ll come an take ya tay the bus”
They say the Scots are mean!
It ain’t true.
OK, Salmond is a prat though! IMO
So, I decided I better ring into control and let them know, which I did.
Then I rang Lucy.
I told her the story, and said that I would be back tomorrow, Sunday late, but that I would need a lift from Peterborough station.
Now, you may expect sympathy, unless you have met Lucy.
BUT I got….
“OH… I suppose I will have to, BUT it isn’t very convenient, I had Plans”
followed by ………..
“I suppose this means you will be moping around at home moaning for the next couple of weeks”
“No Love I though I might pop out for a game of Fucking Golf on Monday”
Suffice it to say, that I didn’t use that last line, because it is a bleeding long walk from Peterborough with a rucksack, and your leg in an open cast plaster.
And with that I spent a pleasant but painful evening at the B&B.
The next morning true as his word, the taxi man came round and took me to the bus station, carried my stuff, got me on the bus and had a chat with the bus driver as well.
I was not taking NO for an answer, and I gave him several beers and whiskey’s of cash.
We waved goodbye and headed off to Glasgow.
On the way, I had an excellent chat with an old lady who was sitting in the seat behind about all manner of things.
In Glasgow, the bus driver carried my stuff off for me.
Took it over to his mate on the Edinburgh bus, had a chat with him, and got me on in a seat 20 min before they opened the bus up to anyone else.
You know, folk are bloody brilliant.
The bus driver then made a special stop for me in Edinburgh just opposite the station.
And this is the only place where I had any problems at all.
With WANKERS in CARS, who could see my predicament, but were all too cocooned in there little worlds to even slow down or let me get across.
A bunch of **n*s!
Eventually I did, and I was just wondering how the ***K I was going to get down the 14 million steps to the station, when this Geordie lad and his girlfriend stopped to help me.
He was a top bloke.
He carried my pack, not only to the ticket office, while I got my ticket.
But then all the way to the train, and put it in the luggage section, before waving bye and heading off to his train.
In fact there are so m any decent people about, it makes you wonder about politicians!
And so I headed home!
Lucy met me at Peterborough.
To this day, I have NO idea what her missing plans were, and maybe I don’t want to.
My leg was fine.
In fact 2 weeks out of plaster, despite the reservations of my sister in law,
I did Helvelyn and Striding Edge with Lucy, Ollie and Harriet.
And in 2005 I finally made my Comeback TGOC crossing.
And that was another epic, but for different reasons and for another blog post.
TAKE CARE OUT THERE PEOPLE.
SHIT DOES HAPPEN!